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In Celebration of Apollo 11, Ellington Style

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, we are highlighting a fascinating record in our collection. Although the record itself is not particularly rare, the combination of a prominent composer and the anniversary of the premiere performance, in our opinion, makes it worthy of a few paragraphs and further exploration. It is one example among many written in 1969 containing “moon” in the title. “Moon Maiden” is one piece in Ellington’s “Music to Land on the Moon By,” commissioned by the American Broadcasting Company to be broadcast as part of a their 30-hour moon mission coverage. In the setting, Ellington is poised in front of  exact replicas of the spacecraft’s components, including a model lunar module. 

Intimate Ellington Cover

Intimate Ellington Cover

Moon Maiden is released on the album “The Intimate Ellington.” The liner notes from the original album were written by Stanley Dance, a jazz writer and close friend of Ellington, who was present during the rehearsals. There are conflicting citations of this track being recorded on either July 14th or July 15th, 1969, days before the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Ken Vail’s publication, Duke’s Diary, mentions it was recorded again on September 4, 1969, with a more robust instrumentation. This recording was released in 2002 on Duke Ellington Live and Rare, by Bluebird Records.

Instrumentation of September 4th recording.

Instrumentation of September 4th recording.

For comparison, I recommend first listening to the broadcast version followed by the track released on The Intimate Ellington album. The broadcast version was performed with piano and vocals by Ellington himself, along with Rufus Jones on drums, Paul Kondziela on bass, and Al Chernet on guitar. Mr. Dance writes that he anticipated the celeste might give a “moony” effect and thus during a rehearsal Ellington experimented with a celeste and vocal performance which was recorded and is heard on the album. 

For additional listening enjoyment, check out the 1978 Luv You Madly Orchestra disco arrangement. For more Ellington early recordings, the Loeb Music Library has the Duke Ellington Recordings Collection, available upon request.  The manuscript for Moon Maiden is held at the Smithsonian National Music of American History, Archives Center.


Ellington, Duke. Duke Ellington Live and Rare. New York: Bluebird, 2002, compact disc. Disc 3: The Reader’s Digest Sessions. Recorded September 1969. 

Ellington, Duke. The Intimate Duke Ellington. Pablo 2310-787, 1977, LP.

Stratemann, Klaus. Duke Ellington Day by Day and Film by Film. Copenhagen NV, Denmark: JazzMedia ApS, 1992, p. 592.

Vail, Ken. Duke’s Diary: Part Two: The Life of Duke Ellington 1950-1974. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2002, p. 360.

A Dive into a Jazz Contract

Jazz connoisseurs are familiar with things being branded “blue note.” There’s the Blue Note in New York City with chains in Japan, China, and the U.S., Blue Note Records, the Blue Note Jazz Festival, The Blue Note in Chicago (now closed), to name a few. Another prominent jazz club with the popular name was in Philadelphia, and Harvard is fortunate to have a selection of their musician contracts from 1949-1957, with the bulk of the contracts concentrated in 1956.

Represented in the collection are jazz contracts from well-known musicians Cannonball Adderley, Louis Armstrong, The Australian Jazz Quintet, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, The Modern Jazz Quartet and several others. The most frequent signatures on the contracts are Jack Fields, owner of the Blue Note in the early 1950s, also known by his given name Irvin Rosenfeld as described in his obituary, and Lou Church, co-owner with Bob Pesselo, who began signing the contracts we have in hand starting in June 1956.

Miles Davis signature on contract

Lou Church and Miles Davis signatures on contract for performances from Dec. 3-8, 1956. Ms. Coll. 119

From December 3rd to the 8th, the Miles Davis Quintet began a two month series of engagements, starting in Philadelphia. The group featured Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones.

Miles Davis contract for December 3 through 8, 1956.

Contract for Miles Davis performance at the Blue Note in Philadelphia. Ms. Coll. 119

On Saturday, December 8th, the set was featured on Bandstand, U.S.A., with audio available on YouTube. On this night the club was raided by police, as described in the African-American newspaper The Philadelphia Tribune. Lou Church is quoted as saying, “Police squads armed with shotguns enter the Blue Note frequently and frisk customers in hopes of embarrassing them into not coming to the club again.”

Headline from Philadelphia Tribune "Police Harass 400 At Blue Note; Deny Drive on White-Tan Lovers"

Philadelphia Tribune clipping

Clippings from the Philadelphia Tribune, Dec. 11, 1956.

The Collection of Jazz Contracts, 1949-1957 (Ms. Coll. 119) is located in the Isham Memorial Library, adjunct to the Loeb Music Library. There’re a lot of connections to be made about the life and history of the musicians and the Blue Note Club of Philadelphia in the collection of contracts. The collection can be viewed by appointment.


Chambers, Jack. Milestones I: The Music and Times of Miles Davis to 1960. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983.

“Police Harass 400 at Blue Note; Deny Drive on White-Tan Lovers.” Philadelphia Tribune, Dec. 11, 1956.

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